Sikhs up in arms over Army turban veto
The US Army has come under fire from American Sikh organisations protesting about two Sikh military trainees being asked to remove their turbans and cut their hair.
Captain Kamaljit Singh Kalsi, a doctor, and Second-lieutenant Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, have been told this is necessary for them to become eligible for active duty.
Sikh organisations in America have launched a petition in support of the men, who say that when they enrolled for their four-year training progammes, just completed, the army assured them that their turbans and unshorn hair “would not be a problem”.
The Sikh Coalition aims to persuade 15,000 people to write to the army to stop this “discrimination” against the two Sikhs.
The coalition says that Kalsi and Rattan maintained their religious identity throughout their medical graduate school, during army training, at army ceremonies and in army medical facilities.
The two men enrolled for a programme that offered medical training in return for military service.
The Sikh Coalition said its campaign was aimed at protecting the Sikhs’ right to serve in the Army with their Sikh identity intact.
It planned to file a formal complaint with the Department of Defense against victimisation of Captain Kalsi and Second-lieutenant Rattan.
It quotes Captain Kalsi as saying he was shocked to learn that the army would expect him to choose between his faith and service to his country.
“There is nothing about my religion that stops me from doing my job. I know I can serve well without compromising my faith,” he said.
The US Army banned “conspicuous’” religious articles of faith for its servicemen and women in 1981 but some Sikhs who signed up before that date were allowed to maintain their religious identity.
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